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How Google Chrome’s ad blocker works (ctrl.blog)
423 points by d2wa on Feb 3, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 316 comments

I think there's good intentions by Google here. That said, let's talk about the worst-case scenario, the thing that Google could actually do that is entirely anti-competitive.

Step 1: Google finds a large number of competitors who are doing pretty well playing by their rules. Google finds some trait they all have in common. Google then modifies their own ads to not have that trait.

Step 2: Google declares the given trait "not meeting the Better Ads standard", "clarifies" the standard (or their implementation of it), and blocks all their competitors ads. Their own ads of course are still meeting the new set of rules, as they knew the change was coming. If the Coalition for Better Ads disagrees or won't be bullied by the Goliath of advertising, Google will go form their own version of it claiming to be more strict, "for the sake of the users".

Step 3: After a few weeks or months, the competition will modify their ads and eventually everything will be back to normal. That's when Google goes back to step 1.

The final Step 4 is the opposite. Find a trait that none or few competitors have in their ads but would potentially increase click-through rates. Modify the rules to say that doing this thing is okay, and oh hey Google ads are doing that thing as of right now.

Why all of this? Because Amazon is growing in the advertising business and is ruthless. "Your margin is my opportunity". So Google needs an arsenal of dirty tricks up their sleeve.

Do I really believe this is the plan? No. I think Google are legit trying to meet a user need that exists. But I also know they're a publicly traded company with growing competition in a fierce industry. It's not what they plan to do that worries me, but what they can do when up against the wall.

I feel like there's a simpler explanation that's still not 'good intentions':

1. Lots of people are using adblockers to block all ads, including Google's, and they don't like that.

2. People mostly install adblockers to block really annoying ads.*

3. By building in an adblocker that blocks annoying ads, people will stop installing full adblockers that also block Google's ads.

*There are real issues with non-annoying ads, like tracking, but I don't think most people know or care very much about that.

> People mostly install adblockers to block really annoying ads.*

Many people use ad blockers because they want to block all ads. There are many reasons to block them, including malware, privacy, and brainwashing.

If ads works to manipulate behavior (and they do, otherwise people wouldn't buy them), and you don't want to be manipulated, you shouldn't let professionals attempt to hijack your brain (whether those attempts are done via ads, Facebook-style feeds, or other ways).

I can't be sure, but I think a non-trivial reason why I block them is because they are frankly unspeakably ugly. :)

This is very true. If ads were less repetitive and original, I would even choose to view them.

I use an ad blocker solely to block popups that interfere with my reading. So many sites popup to ask for your email once you scroll far enough to move the mouse to leave, and I simply don't want to be on email lists. I'm totally fine with other ads and I'm not concerned I've been brainwashed.

This is a very pessimistic view of the world. Not all ads are attempts to hijack your brain. For example, if you were already thinking about buying a specific keyboard and then saw an ad for that same keyboard with a 10% discount, that ad would have actually provided positive value to you. You save money for the thing that you already want. Not all ads are like that, but the example goes to show that there is a spectrum and that its not black and white.

Assuming the premises of your scenario (that the ad didn't change anything about you to make you more likely to buy the keyboard, or adversely influence you in any other way), the display of this ad is a disaster for the advertiser. Advertisers will work as hard as they can to make that not happen.

This is true. However, I do think that there are a few (possibly rare) cases where advertisements can cause a mutual benefit.

If I intend to purchase a product of a certain category, and would like to choose one with a particular property, but am under the assumption that no such product exists, and I see an ad for such a product, correcting my impression, I may, as a result, purchase that product instead of competitors which don't have the property that I desire, which satisfies both my own wants, and the wants of the company advertising the product.

This has happened to me at least once.

However, most ads that I see do not provide me with any new information, and the strategy of having ads follow users around after the first time they see it seems somewhat contrary to this type of benefit, and I don't totally understand why it is understood to be effective.

Saving 10% on a keyboard on a very rare occasion isn't worth the dangers of advertising (privacy, malware, brainwashing).

I wasn't really talking about the 10% savings thing, so I'm not sure how this is relevant to what I said?

I do agree that the malware risk that current ad systems cause is bad, and it would probably be good if consumers behaved in such a way that the sort of ad systems that are a malware risk were no longer more financially viable.

However, I don't think I have any substantial objection to the style of ads on project wonderful, which do not allow embedding any extra JavaScript or anything like that, only permitting an image, a link, and a hovertext value, iirc. No tracking or malware risk there I think. Or, at least negligible risk.

If you have a proposed improvement on how to lead people who desire a product to discover that said product is available, I'd be interested in hearing it?

I think that most ads aren't leading people who desire a product to that product -- they are creating desire for products that people don't really need.

Most of the ads I see at the moment are on YouTube/Gmail and they are for things like junk food, "make money online" scam artists, and other garbage. Sometimes there are unblockable content ads on news sites that pretend to be news, but are really just paid content.

It certainly seems true that the vast majority of times that some person sees some ad, that that impression is not connecting a person who desires some product to that product, and furthermore, I quite doubt that that could plausibly be otherwise, at least assuming any substantial amount of people seeing advertisements.

However, I don't think that by itself is sufficient for a condemnation of advertisement in general.

If the cost to the viewer (and the advertiser) of the ad impressions which [do not connect a consumer desiring a product to that product] is sufficiently low, then it could be possible for both consumers and advertisers to benefit on average. (Not to say that it is currently the case that they do.)

This is true even if the advertisers were to only benefit from the ad impressions which connected a consumer desiring a product desiring a product to said product.

So, I guess the question would be, whether or not the costs to consumers (and advertisers) when [not connecting people desiring a product to the product] can be made sufficiently small to make it a mutual benefit.

Of course, if that by itself was enough to lead to a mutual benefit, one could wonder why it would be included as part of something else that the consumer wishes to look at, rather than just being something that consumers might look at separately from other content. One possible reason could be that seeing it as part of other desirable content decreases the cost to the consumer when the product is not one that they desire. I'm not sure how much credence to assign to that reason.

Thinking on this, I suspect that direct mutual benefit between the advertisers and consumers would not in practice be a sufficient reason by itself for (e.g.) websites to tend to have ads on them, even if ads were restricted to have many fewer problems for consumers.

So, I think that it is likely that if not for the inconvenience of removing ads from websites they view, the main reason that consumers might deign to allow the ads to display on the webpages they view would be because of the benefit it provides to the owner of the website.

So, I guess I would recommend blocking ads which create more of a cost to you than you consider worth it in order to provide the benefit to website owners get from the ads being displayed to people who reason similarly to you?

It is my opinion that for a certain fairly restricted set of types of ads, that the average cost to me is sufficiently low that I am willing to incur it.

However, don't get me wrong: I definitely support the freedom to block whatever ads you wish (unless you have made a contract to do otherwise or something like that).

I think that ideally, the only ads that should be profitable should be the ones which impose extremely low costs on the viewer, and occasionally provide some benefit to the viewer (even if this is rare enough that the only reason the viewer deigns to see them is so that the website owner benefits).

Not true. If I know you want a keyboard and that you can buy it from 100 different stores, I would probably give you a discount to buy it from me as long as it still makes me money.

I'm never thinking about buying anything that I see in an ad. I don't own much more in life other than some books, my computers, and a few clothes. I prefer to take my own initiative on what I buy, and the less I buy, the better.

Ah, you unique snowflake :)

It’s astounding when people think that advertising doesn’t affect them. And yet companies continue to pay billions for adverts...

I think people who use ad blockers, like myself, KNOW all about how advertising works. Oh yes most certainly WE KNOW. That is why some of us choose to block them.

I limit my exposure to marketing as much as I can.

There's no need to be condescending, and there's a much simpler solution to avoid being influenced by ads.

It's called making data-driven decisions.

Step 1: Find a set of products that solve your problem based on independent reviews, e.g. what Stiftung Warentest writes.

Step 2: Use several price comparison engines, e.g. idealo, Preispiraten, Hardwareschotte to find the cheapest option for the products.

Step 3: Order there.

If you methodically follow this algorithm, you are immune to making ad-based decisions.

It's a good idea, but I don't think that it will stop being influenced by ads.

Human behavior is contagious, and advertisers know that. That's why actors in commercials pretend to be just another person like the viewer while lying about performing some action or behavior that the advertisers want the viewer to copy. I don't think that it's possible to suppress that behavior-imitating instinct completely. Humans are generally not very rational creatures -- not even the self-proclaimed rational ones.

Many ads are not just about some product that one might really need, like a keyboard or other equipment that is essential for a person's work. Many ads I see are about junk food, bad lifestyle choices, and trying to convince the public that bad entities are actually good entities (example: greenwashing).

But does anyone actually follow that algorithm 100% faithfully? We are not machines, fortunately.

If you don't have enough money, and can only barely afford to buy something, then yes, very much you will follow it religiously. You will try to buy the most reliable for the cheapest price, because you can't afford the product failing, nor can you afford paying too much, and you don't want to go back to getting food from the food bank so you can spend your grocery money to replace the broken washing machine.

Of course if you're a SV programmer earning 5-10 times the average wage, you don't care about this and buy overpriced shit every day, but many people follow this to the letter.

I'd argue that we and our minds have enough weaknesses in comparison to machines, that it is not fortunate that we aren't more like machines. We'd be far less vulnerable to making the kinds of mistakes that only human minds can make.

> It’s astounding when people think that advertising doesn’t affect them.

I know that advertising affects me. That's one of the reasons why I block ads at every opportunity.

If you want to buy a keyboard, then you visit sites from where keyboards can be bought. Meanwhile, when you are doing other things, you shouldn’t be seeing advertising, least of all ads specifically targeting you. You seem to find it hard to understand that ads are aesthetically unacceptable to intelligent people. Do you see ads on the pages of a novel you are reading in a paper book?

> There are real issues with non-annoying ads, like tracking, but I don't think most people know or care very much about that.

I speak to a lot of people who find "retargeting" deeply creepy. The awareness of the problem is there. However, they don't understand what causes it, how it works or that it's even possible to stop it.

Its also just bad salesmanship.

There was an electronics store called CompUSA. I didn’t always shop there but I did buy Christmas presents there. Then one year they started using transparent shopping bags. Which means you can’t shop for anybody that is on the trip with you, or lives with you. It made it a hassle to keep a secret and I just gave up.

So now if I am looking at jewelry for my partner, ads for the exact things I looked at will follow me around for the next several weeks. Dumber still, it will show me ads for an expensive item I already bought. Telegraphing my purchase history.

If someone just bought a new TV, then showing then TV ads is pretty much the dumbest move you can make. The target is at an all time low for probability of purchasing that item. And worse, you risk triggering buyer’s remorse. Repeatedly.

But this is Amazons engineering culture. Don’t reason about anything. Just try it and see. It’s amoral most of the time (but refusing to address ethics is itself immoral).

They are basically a giant factory for throwing spaghetti against a wall to see what sticks. I think all they can do is get more parasitic until people say no.

Wait. What does retargeting have to do with Amazon’s Engineering culture? Seems like a large leap in logic. Couldn’t it just as easily say “well, that’s Facebook’s caching layer not updating fast enough to remove finished campaigns?”

Its a casualty of their philosophy on code. If the numbers look good it doesn’t matter whose idea it was or how crazy it sounded. They tell you this pretty much at the top of the indoctrination material.

It certainly keeps them out of analysis paralysis, no question. But any armchair psychologist can tell you this is essentially numbing. Not listening to your fears or emotions can be as unhealthy as dwelling on them. Zero is not the only alternative to Too Much. These things take balance.

I just don't think this is true. There's plenty of shady and scummy stuff that Amazon can do (and other online retailers do) which Amazon doesn't do. It's far more straightforward at building customer loyalty by getting them stuff more cheaply than other retails, much faster, with free shipping by squeezing their own margins.

I haven't even interviewed with Amazon, but I'm still curious: outside of "office politics" bullshit, why should an idea ever be judged by who made it or its _a priori_ "apparent craziness", let alone given that it has been tested?

(regardless of the test results; if they were negative then any other concerns are redundant)

The behaviour you described is a bug. The "throw everything at the wall" advertising technique - also known as the contextual multi-armed bandit problem - should adapt to changes in the context, such as when an expensive TV set has been bought. It's part of the reinforcement learning subfield, which is the spearhead of AI.


> If someone just bought a new TV, then showing then TV ads is pretty much the dumbest move you can make. The target is at an all time low for probability of purchasing that item. And worse, you risk triggering buyer’s remorse. Repeatedly.

While I agree with your subjective experience -- right after buying product X I'm done, I wanna look at other stuff -- from a marketing/advertising perspective repeated ad exposures right after purchase actually do a lot to eliminate buyers remorse and reinforce our decision making. We're creatures of emotion first, logic second.

Seeing car ads after buying a car, unless it's the same model for less money, make you feel better about your purchase. I don't think that's why it happens online, but that's no small part of it in print and TV.

> 2. People mostly install adblockers to block really annoying ads.*

I don't really think there's any other kind of ad. For the majority of us, there's absolutely no value in ads; so there's no reason I'd want them displayed.

> For the majority of us, there's absolutely no value in ads

They do give value, they allow sites to operate without some subscription or entrance fee.

I think the actual plan may be one step once their own blocker is released:

1. Declare all ad blockers in the Chrome Web Store now obsolete, and ban them.

If people no longer feel the need to install a stronger ad blocker why is that bad?

Because there's still the privacy problem that many don't fully understand.

That's why Mozilla's approach is tracking protection which also happens to block annoying ads.

But yes, if the concern is only bringing in line what people "feel" with the product you want to sell, then Google's strategy makes perfect sense.

I would be surprised if the chrome ad blocker will block Ads for Google's own properties like Youtube, and while most ads probably adhere to the advertising standards they have still be caught accidentally serving crypto-mining ads (https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2018/01/now-e...).

So to me it's bad because it's opening up people's computers to exploitation that even Google can't control.

Because those people are still being manipulated into making less than optimal choices. Ads are just there to make society worse.

They're doing it, not to block ads, but to make sure ads reach you. So the question gets philosophical in a hurry. What is the "goodness" of an otherwise generous act done for self-serving reasons?

Is it good or bad to write a check to an orphanage for the publicity?

Is it good or bad to save someone's life because they owe you money?

Is it good or bad to block certain ads to make sure other ads still reach you?

> Is it good or bad to block certain ads to make sure other ads still reach you?

If there is a growing product that works better, and fully blocks ads and your goal is only to quickly take over the market and do a worse job then I say 'no' that's not being altruistic...

If they put up a big banner saying "only works half as well at blocking ads as the competition" then maybe it's a little better.

It may not be good, but it's not being done on the pretence of being good. The question is, how is it bad?

Unless they block YouTube ads, I think a lot of people are still going to use an ad blocker.

Yup, the most annoying ads I encounter on a daily basis are youtube ads. If they don't block them, I don't know what's the point of a adblocker.

This is the explanation they give in the post.

>*There are real issues with non-annoying ads, like tracking,

99% of online tracking comes from Google Analytics, not ads.

> ...but I don't think most people know or care very much about that.


There's another step here: Google encouraging paywalls for people who do have an adblocker installed. Paywalls that they themselves will service. See https://support.google.com/fundingchoices/answer/7362965?hl=... and its explicit mention in https://www.blog.google/topics/journalism-news/building-bett...

i read the link only in part, but this look reasonable. if you exclude ads and paywall how should they make money?

moreover when mozzilla made attempt to "non-tracking privacy-respectful ads" in the mr robot scandal everyone was at their throat.

how should site make money then?

I use uBlock Origin, but it's pretty easy to bypass: host ads on your own site. That's how ads worked in other forms of media for ages.

How about providing a meaningful service and request adequate compensation? Paywalls work fine for quality content. There's tons of proof that people are willing to pay for books, games, movies, and music. But by having a paywall, you lose out on search indexing. You can't have your cake and eat it.

Hosting ads on your site isn't actually enough. uBlock Origin can and does block by CSS selector (and that's the default behavior if you use right-click -> Block Element).

It _does_ get pretty hard to block if your ads are bespoke native advertisements, though.

If you don't see the issue with Google enabling putting up paywalls, but only on sites that are showing ads that belong to them or to companies that made a deal with them, while blocking ads on sites that don't do Google's bidding, I'm not sure what to tell you.

Note that they are not being public with their list of sites that they will block ads on and reason why; nothing prevents them from putting sites on that list for any arbitrary reason they want.

I personally find the ads on Google search really annoying.

I'd never use Google if Ublock didn't hide them.

Without adblock, google died a decade ago.

So those are two reasons because 1 and 3 are the same: google wants themselves unblocked.

So the intention is to give people a way to remove annoying ads.

I'd say that's obviously a good intention.

The fact that Google also can gain from it doesn't change that to me, but I realize others have different moral philosophies.


That's a valid concern, but it's also a very obvious one, and Google already being in the crosshairs of regulators will certainly be aware of it.

They are clearly prepared to counter any such allegation in two ways.

1) It's not Google alone setting the standard. The "coalition for better ads" also includes Facebook, Microsoft and many others: https://www.betterads.org/members/

2) The rules are few and reasonably simple: https://www.betterads.org/standards/

The combination of these two facts doesn't make it easy to pursue a strategy like the one you laid out. So I think this is sincere and can work to some degree.

BUT, the rules are insufficient! They don't ban animations. For me, anything that moves is a huge distraction especially next to or right in the middle of longer text.

Another extremely annoying thing is never ending layout changes. Pages keep jumping up and down because ads are being inserted and moved around all the time.

In other words, what this standard doesn't mandate is to keep the page still. That's why I like the reader mode in browsers that have one, such as Firefox and Safari.

The coalition of marketing giants. I'm sure they're only thinking of us and what's best for us when setting their "standards".

It's like the coalition of tobacco companies thinking about how to stop kids smoking.

The point is that they are Google's major competitors.

Totally agree. I need uBlock just to remove elements or more often entire sidebars from websites that insist on having animated gifs right next to text that I'm trying to read.

I really can't concentrate with animation going on in in the corner.

The worst part about all of this is the conflation of advertising with tracking. They are very different beasts.

Google "protects" us from visibly annoying ads while ignoring the much more troubling intrusive and problematic tracking.

The indirect effect of this, I believe, will be for fewer people to protect themselves from problematic cross-site tracking.

I'm thinking that's not an indirect effect, but a goal of the initiative.

Google is absolutely going down the wrong path here. They could blow Amazon away with one simple move that would benefit users AND, especially, advertisers.

The problem with online ads and the reason that things are getting scummier and scummier is that they simply don't work very well for the advertiser. Most clicks are bogus; most prospects are unqualified. That's how Amazon wins: when you click Amazon, you are a buyer wanting to buy. That's why I would far more readily pay for an Amazon ad than a Google ad.

But Google could get back in the game and dominate it with one simple step. If, in their search page, they had a button that said "I am looking to buy" or something along those lines; in other words, if they helped prequalify the prospect, then their ads would become super valuable and they would effectively become the meta-Amazon. Everybody would start using Google again for shopping. Right now, it's mostly Google = Research, Amazon = Shopping, which is why Google search ads are fairly worthless.

I actually witnessed this flow one time: User has car from Budget rent-a-car. User things goole = internet, so goes to google, types "budget rental car" into search bar. Ad for Budget rent-a-car comes up. She clicks it to go to the page to check on her rental. So, Budget had to pay for a click from a user that was already trying to get to their page. From an advertiser's perspective that is not a good use of funds. It's almost as if Google has set up a gate that you have to pay to let your customers get through even after you've earned their business.

> If, in their search page, they had a button that said "I am looking to buy" or something along those lines

It seems that you are describing Google Shopping.

Relevant video on the trustworthiness of Google Shopping: https://youtu.be/46bqxNv8S1w

Really? Never heard of it.

It is, alas paid listings only.

However it is decent.

I don't use Amazon, and find I use Google Shopping to find suppliers a lot.

Its former product name was Froogle.

They do this already, albeit with the second click, not the first. https://imgur.com/a/M1SbG

They should put it here:


Google's intent is to protect their advertising revenue stream. That's not good or bad, it's just business.

Definitely agree with you on the long term capability. There's just so much risk having your web interface owned by someone with a vested interest in what you see.

In the meantime expect 3rd party attempts at gaming this functionality.

> That's not good or bad, it's just business.

I think I missed some nuance. Is doing business is beyond reproach these days?

seems to be if you listen to some of the corporate appologists around HN, where if it isnt explicitly against the law, people have nothing to complain about (and often not even then..)

There are definitely some for whom the pursuit of profit justifies the means, regardless of how immoral (or morally grey) it is, and any relevant laws are there to be dodged (bonus points for writing said actions off as "being disruptive").

It's bad for anyone who doesn't want to be stalked by powerful corporations.

The entire exercise is then predicated on the assumption that adverts actually solve some problems that users have.

That is not my experience.

Why should Google have "good intentions"? It's a company, a publicly traded one at that. Their intentions are profit maximization. Abiding the law and maintaining somewhat of a reputation tend to be non-optional for that, but it's not their primary goal.

It’s still run by people. There is a possibility that they have good intentions.

I believe Google already does that with video ads. Part of Google's rules are that there be no autoplay video ads. But on YouTube annoying autoplay video ads are their bread and butter

Step 2, if taken anti-competetively would end up in tens of billions of dollars in fines and possibly the break-up of the company. I don't find it that unlikely, all things considered, but it should be the nail in the coffin.

I think you are overly optimistic in the willingness and ability of our governments to protect us from privacy invasion. They seem much more willing to protected us from seeing naked people.

I am EU-based and I guess you are US-based? That would count for some difference in perspective. IIRC Microsoft was fighting both US and EU competition cases and it pretty much handed them a lost decade. Not sure about the current US climate with regards to anti competitive behaviour, but if there are US-competitors in the ad market that are hit by step 2, I guess even some Republicans would see that as a bridge too far for Google?

You're correct that I'm in the US. Microsoft repeatedly bested the US prosecutors- it took the EU to stop them. Is the EU aggressive about stopping trackers?

I'd say yes when considering the existing and new privacy laws being passed. Some of the identification and data reselling that is typical in the US is not done for European customers because it's not allowed.

They just want people to watch the ads man. That's their only intention.

>That said, let's talk about the worst-case scenario, the thing that Google could actually do that is entirely anti-competitive.

How exactly is this anti-competitive? The rules for ad guidelines are set by the Coalition for Better Ads and not Google. So any change in the rules that determine what an acceptable ad is must be approved by the coalition. The only scenario in which your hypothetical argument makes any sense is if Google controlled the coalition which they clearly do not and never will especially when you consider the caliber of companies in the coalition.

Exactly. Leave the adblocking to the third party extensions. Hopefully there will an option to opt-out.

If there were good intentions by Google here, it would block all ads, including Google’s.

Chrome will block all ads, including Google's, on sites that are deemed to be serving "bad ads".

Seems like they would find themselves in court over it if they played it like that.

> I think there's good intentions by Google here.

There isn't "good intentions". It's almost pointless to talk in that terms when it comes to multinational companies. Corporations don't work that way. They aren't charities. Google is acting in its own best interests - what's good for the shareholders. There is no other consideration.

> Google appears to be shipping the entirety of EasyList and EasyPrivacy; which includes blocking rules for Google’s own AdSense and DoubleClick advertisement platforms as well as Google Analytics, and other Google services.

This is confusing. EasyList is not bound to the "Better Ads Standards", its purpose is to block all ads, regardless of their perceived intrusiveness.

Also, I failed to understand why would EasyPrivacy be used: its purpose is outside that of "Better Ads Standards".

The article further claims:

> Google’s ad blocking capabilities will be on par with the best tools available from day one.

How is this even possible if the web sites targeted are only those which are not compliant "Better Ads Standards"?

The blockers making use of EasyList do not care about "Better Ads Standards", so the result can't possibly be "on par with the best tools available"[1]

I would like to know how the author of the article got the information about EasyList and EasyPrivacy, I find it difficult to believe these would be used by Chrome's integrated blocker given its claimed purpose.

* * *

UPDATE: After looking around a bit, I understand better now how this works. As per ghacks.net[2], excerpt (my emphasis):

> Google Chrome will download rules from EasyList and EasyPrivacy at regular intervals and apply them to sites that failed reviews automatically.

So EasyList/EasyPrivacy are used on sites which fail to comply with "Better Ads Standards".

In retrospect I suffered reading comprehension, the sentence in the article was clear enough:

> These lists are used to limit what resources are loaded on websites identified by Safe Browsing as being non-compliant with the Better Ad Standards.

* * *

[1] Add to this that EasyList is just a complementary list on top of more advanced blocking features found on blockers such as uBlock Origin or Adguard.

[2] https://www.ghacks.net/2018/02/02/details-about-googles-ad-b...

I think I can clarify now that I understand. What they are doing is using their "safe browsing" hidden partial-hash-based list to determine if a site "deserves" to be subject to the EasyList/EasyPrivacy lists. So it's selectively choosing where the lists are applied unlike your awesome tool. I have confirmed even in current Chrome they are already downloading these lists (in Windows at ~/AppData/Local/Google/Chrome/User Data/Subresource Filter)...both the indexed and unindexed sets have the EasyList licenses. Also, from my quick perusal of the code, I don't believe they apply cosmetic filters.

People work hard on those lists, not sure they appreciate selective application of them.

Also, the statement "Google’s ad blocking capabilities will be on par with the best tools available from day one" is impossible like you claim because it's only a subset of what other blockers would do unless the author is claiming that not-blocking ads means better or on-par capability.

>its purpose is to block all ads, regardless of their perceived intrusiveness.

and that's what chrome's adblocker will do. The purpose of chrome's adblocker is not to block ads that don't conform to the better ad standards, it's to block ALL ads on websites that don't conform to the better ad standards. There's no way to block individual ads that don't comply, since the standards define things like the number of ads you can have visible at a time, or how close ads can be to each other. if your site is 90% ads and 10% content, which of those ads are intrusive and which ones should you allow through? So what google is doing instead is flagging the site as "has intrusive ads", and then blocking all advertising on that site.

>I would like to know how the article author got the information about EasyList and EasyPrivacy

the author says at the beginning of the article that this information comes from inspecting the chromium source code.

> apply them to sites that failed reviews automatically

Wait, sites that failed automatic reviews or sites that somehow "automatically" failed reviews (sounds like, because of 'some reason' they aren't eligible so they default-fail). Because the latter would, of course, play right into Google's hand.

Automatically applied to sites that failed whatever review Google chooses to do.

I found that confusing, too. I thought, they were actually running EasyList and EasyPrivacy in full and fulltime, which would have been completely orthogonal to Google's entire business model.

So, what it actually means is that if you follow the visual guidelines, which Google has been following for reputation reasons for a long time, then you get to track users all you want, which is where Google is market leader. If you don't follow the visual guidelines, then your ads and tracking gets blocked, fostering the monopoly of Google.

Sounds like a primary example of anti-competitive behaviour then.

As long as your are not serving visually intrusive ads you can still track the shit out of users [1] under the Better Ads Standards [1]. If you are annoyed by flashing ads this is an improvement, if you are concerned about your privacy this does not really help at all. Sure, Chrome will seemingly also block trackers as some kind of side effect when blocking visually intrusive ads but just make your ads pass the visual standards and you are back in tracking business.

[1] Unless I failed to find the relevant rules.

[2] https://www.betterads.org/standards/

This is 100% about reinforcing Google's ad monopoly (along with the AMP initiative).

Google owns DoubleClick which is the biggest adserver on the planet and the #1 source of all the bad intrusive ads in the first place. This could've been easily solved years ago.

Yep. And you can see this in a lot of what Google does.

Most people think Google's push for HTTPS, both in Chrome and SEO rankings, is somehow related to privacy.

It's not. It's about net neutrality and it's about third parties being able to switch out Google's ads for their own, on-the-fly, using a middleman.

I interviewed with a stealth-level startup a few years back. They were developing a product, similar to a WiFi router, that would be installed on premise and sit there, filtering out Google/Facebook/etc. ads and replacing them with ads that the owner of the box wanted. You can imagine this box being installed in Starbucks, airports, libraries, and everywhere else. Cutting into a massive chunk of Google's ad revenue.

The Time Warners, AT&Ts, and Verizons of the world would also be doing this, for HTTP traffic.

We are getting the benefits of privacy. But it's not because Google has good intentions.

> I interviewed with a stealth-level startup a few years back. They were developing a product, similar to a WiFi router, that would be installed on premise and sit there, filtering out Google/Facebook/etc. ads and replacing them with ads that the owner of the box wanted. You can imagine this box being installed in Starbucks, airports, libraries, and everywhere else.

Funny, I was a similar boat once. They weren't a startup, yet. Good for them, because in both meetings I had to tell them their business idea was impossible unless they broke prime factorization. I was surprised I had to meet them the second time.

Oh, and their business idea was a little more intrusive than merely replacing ads. They wanted to be able to read people's emails and Facebook data and serve targeted advertising based on that.

The intrusive reading of emails is exactly what gmail does, isn't it?

DoubleClick already has policies[1][2] designed to prevent those ads from being "intrusive" (at least, according to the better ad standards definition[1] of that term). The problem this is intended to solve is other ad networks which don't enforce those rules giving advertising in general a bad reputation. That's not something that could have been fixed by more policies on Google's own ad networks.

[1]: https://support.google.com/webtools/answer/7347327

[2]: https://support.google.com/adsense/answer/1346295

[3]: https://www.betterads.org/standards/

Intrusive, spammy, misleading and otherwise fraudulent is incredibly lucrative for adtech (as seen in the rise of these formats and outbrain/taboola spam underneath every article).

Google and other major ad networks all have the same policies as it provides PR insurance and plausible deniability for their clients. However, they absolutely do not enforce these rules to any reasonable extent which is not only an open secret in the ad industry but incredibly easy to test and prove yourself.

Yes, please don't be fooled, people.

Essentially inventory management happening

How will this not lead to google strangling their competitors. Are we really going to have to just trust them to use this fairly? Will we really expect google to interpret the Better Ads Standard without any bias, treating their own ads equally to other ads?

Maybe they will be good, but I for one am not comfortable with this. Imagine what happens when chrome decides Facebook ads deserve to be blocked.

According to the article, this is more about google's competitors strangling them (by being so intrusive that customers consider full ad blockers to be necessary).

Credit where it's due - they're right. Full ad blockers are necessary.

And I don't expect this to change that, frankly. They say nothing about blocking the trackers, and that's what needs to be blocked.

Google is far from being strangled, making around $100B in income. The bulk of that income comes from AdWords. AdWords are ads.

Among the rest, this will lead to competitors promoting non-chrome.

Google telling us what "better ads" are is like a drug dealer lecturing you about crack quality control. They could have solved it years ago, but made tons of $ by letting the ad space become the wild west of nagware, malware, and tracking bonanza.

If they were to provide a real adblocker, allowing people to opt-in to ads on sites they like, while blocking everything else, I'd have considered it, on the basis that any technology running in-browser must be more fast/efficient than an extension. But this initiative is just them trying to get people to drop their adblocker and get tracked again.

All things being equal, I think I'll keep my uBlock extension - at least until Google kicks it out of their web store. I believe that would be the next logical step for them :(

To me, "better ads" sounds like "humane torture" or "acceptable manipulation".

The principle of ads is repugnant to me. There's no way to make it better. I don't need to be psychologically manipulated to buy things I don't need. There's no way to make that manipulation ok. What Google considers acceptable, I consider subtle and even more manipulative, trying to sneak it in where most people won't object to the intrusion.

I've mentioned this in another comment, but I think there is a place for well positioned adverts. In the past I've missed out on cultural events (movie premiers, etc.) that I really wanted to know about simply because I don't watch much broadcast TV and use a pretty aggressive Ad blocker. This is generally a great idea and keeps all the crap from streaming into my head but it also stops the rare gem from enriching my life.

You might be better served checking the "Events" section of your local paper (which is like an advertisement page, but accurate, targeted, and curated) rather than relying on internet advertisements.

Any thoughts on how web search should be funded, in an ideal world, if ads are inherently repugnant?

I find this a really sinister bargain too. Citizen, allow yourself to be manipulated, or capitalism will crumble. Watch this ad designed to make you buy a car, or the website gets it!

There are other ways. Ask for donations, like Wikipedia (which as I understand it, is rolling in the dough). Fund it with taxes. Set up a plain ol' paywall and revitalise the slow, inefficient banking system until sending money tiny amounts of money is as easy as clicking "I agree" in an Apple EULA. If we're so strapped for cash that websites will crumble unless we all submit ourselves to the Ludovico technique, surely we have enough of an incentive to work on micropayment technology instead.

Web search shouldn't be centralized or closed source, it should be made of the same stuff Linux is. Whatever Linux does to keep existing, there should be a community driven web search project that mimics it.

How could openness coexist with adversarial SOE? Genuine question -- I think it's possible, but how?

For example, "Optimizers" currently have to guess at what Google is doing, but if the system was open source, they would know exactly.

For another example, modern cryptography actually benefits from openness. Is there a similar possibility for Search?

I have no clue really but I'd like to see what the results would be like if the presence of anything that makes a site money would count negatively towards it's ranking. Any eCommerce site unless the search is something like "where to buy...". Completely disqualify any site with ad network and tracking scripts. I'd also like to see "text/plain" given the highest ranking. There's not much incentive to game the system if you can't make money off it.

Ads aren't necessarily a bad thing, they can be incredibly informative or entertaining in their own right. I mean, have you watched a movie, TV show or game trailer at all? That's an advertisement, yet no one would say all of those are manipulative.

Something like this is almost entirely informative for someone looking for information about the product:



And the same goes for quite a few trailers and ads. Oh sure, they obviously want you to buy the product, and will pick the best footage to make it look good, but they also act as a nice quick summary of the story and what you'll actually be getting from it.

It's why even the BBC are fine with advertising their own shows in the same way.


And let's not forget how oftentimes these things being posted can be seen as a big event in itself. Something like E3 or a Nintendo Direct is literally just advertising for the company or companies involved. Yet millions of people treat the advertising event in the same way as a hotly anticipated TV show or sporting event, because it provides them a way to see what's been worked on and find out more about something they're interested in. Same sort of thing with the Superbowl ads being a draw in themselves. Or how Disney releasing a trailer for the next new Star Wars film would cause a huge reaction online.

So ads in of themselves aren't necessarily a bad thing. They certainly can be if they're exploitative (like, payday loan advertising or sugary foods being advertised in kids shows), lie through the teeth about the product (like No Man's Sky and Aliens Colonial Marines) or harm the consumer or their property (like malware ads and tracking online), but they can also be an art in themselves and a perfectly valid way of learning more about a new product.

If online ads were relevant to the content, didn't track the user or try and run scripts on their machine and worked about the same way they do in a real life newspaper or magazine (or the trailers before movies) then that would be acceptable and rightly classed as 'better'.

Which is it, the super secret consortium that won't even let you download the full list of bad sites, or Easy List/Privacy? Why don't they just use EasyList and report offenders there instead of this new consortium? The answer to that rhetorical question will let you know why I'll remain on uBO. They didn't need to build this in, but they did and gave the current ad-blocking community the finger instead of support.

>Which is it, the super secret consortium that won't even let you download the full list of bad sites, or Easy List/Privacy? Why don't they just use EasyList and report offenders there instead of this new consortium?

The lists serve different purposes. EasyList is a lit of ad-serving URLs to block. The uh, consortium list is a black/white list of which sites don't follow the standards. The standards are not about bad ads, but about sites that use ads in bad ways. The standards can't be automatically enforced since software can't reliably determine if an ad is a popunder or otherwise intrusive due to placement. Sites would quickly use CSS/JS hacks to work around the classifier.

EasyList is also a list of ad-serving sites to block and a list of elements to hide. Can you help me understand why the blacklist can't be just placed in a normal ad blocking list like EasyList? If it's by site anyways, I'm not sure the actual difference for the blocker itself. It's not like the EasyList standards can be automatically enforced by software either.

I think "serve different purposes" could be rephrased to "serve different overseers". I can't find a reason for the tech difference.

They don't want to block ads on sites, unless the site is on the other list.

That is, if site foo.com and bar.com both serve ads, but foo.com is on the "blacklist", the ad blocking will be enabled on foo.com. However, ad blocking will remain disabled on bar.com.

It's not Google's intention to block all ads on all sites - only ads on "bad" sites. If they can reduce the number of adblock installs by reducing the overall number of invasive ads, they can keep their own ad business from folding.

Ah, I see now, EasyList is selectively applied after first determining whether the site "deserves" it. That's an evil use of the hard work of EasyList maintainers IMO. I wonder if I can find a way to make Chrome think every site is "bad". If not, uBO still for me.

Yeah, this seems like it already is, or will soon become, solidly evil. If Google decides to flag your site, all of a sudden you don't get ad revenue from anyone. An AdWords sales-drone can then contact you to explain how you can remove yourself from Google's "naughty" list, e.g. by giving them more inventory, or giving their competitors less.

I will bet you that once this rolls out Chrome is going to make it pretty hard to use something like uBO effectively...

That's very kind of them to provide a convenient "white list" of ad-serving URLs for me to block.

That whitelist is very likely an API endpoint or otherwise locked down, which will help them log every single url requested by your browser for "debugging purposes". Rather similar to how smartscreen works on windows

Read the article. They do use EasyList + EasyPrivacy.

They use EasyList+EasyPrivacy but only websites that they judge as having intrusive advertising. You can't manually enable adblocking on any website, nor add for example "youtube.com" to the blacklist.

I did read the article. That's why I included it in my comment. It should be exclusive. Not using only some of that list (e.g. no cosmetic blockers) and then using some super secret list the world doesn't have access to. Shouldn't have half of one and half of the other without the possibility of fine-tuned configurability. Otherwise, you are just an opaque piece of the system that I will supplement with a more transparent version.

I wouldn't trust a burglar to install my security system. I won't trust Google to block ads.

You can trust a burglar to install a security system that will keep other burglars out, but you can be 100% sure that you will not be able to keep the installer out, in fact you are just about giving them an incentive to rob you blind at the first opportunity. Google will do an amazing job at blocking competitor ads.

Then why did the competitors, including the top competitors in terms of revenue, sign up to be part of the consortium?

I see this as a shot at piracy sites, if anything. Since they cannot join reputable ad networks, they join disreputable ones that don't even try to police their ads or publishers and show shady and misleading ads. Those will all be blocked now, choking the piracy sites of revenue.

The primary beneficiaries are content producers. The secondary beneficiaries are Internet companies that are hit by botnets.

> Then why did the competitors, including the top competitors in terms of revenue, sign up to be part of the consortium?

They don't have a choice. Either they join the cartel or they watch their ads vanish entirely[0] from the most popular browser.

I don't think this is an either/or thing. Google is doing something with positive externalities. But it also so happens to align 100% with their commercial interests.

[0] edit: "entirely" is hyperbole. But even a low percentage is worth giving in for.

> Either they join the cartel or they watch their ads vanish entirely[0] from the most popular browser.

Why do you think they didn't want to join? They get the same benefits as Google and the Internet at large. I'm having a hard time following your logic for why this is Google attacking its competitors if its competitors are unaffected by the change.

There is is word for it - oligopoly

But when you're robbed you'll know exactly who did it. I expect Google will try very hard to appear to treat all ads equally, hence the focus on all ads on particular sites, instead of trying to make judgements on individual ads. If they don't, they will quickly suffer massive fines that actually hurt their bottom line every year, as well as lawsuits from competitors that they stand a chance of actually losing.

The ADT company hired and trusted convicted serial killer Dennis Rader to install alarms. He'd then defeat the alarms and go in to the houses to bind, torture, and kill his victims.

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dennis_Rader#Early_life_and_ca...

Your analogy is good. Google and Chrome Adblocker is just like ADT and the "BTK Killer".

As far as most people were concerned, Dennis Rader was a normal member of community. I used to live in Wichita where he operated. One of my coworkers had had dinner with them because they went to the same church as him.

His wife kids didn't know, nobody knew.

Did he have a criminal record when ADT hired him?

No. In fact, Rader was once considered to be a pillar of the community.

This is a good thing. Advertising is one of the most effective ways companies have to let people know about their products - I'd say they're essential in free market economies. But having ads is one thing and completely disrupting the user experience is another. Finding a balance is a better approach than blocking all ads.

Two things about ads.

They don't seek to inform you so much as they seek to inform you that something exists whilst manipulating your emotions to get a particular reaction out of you and millions of other people. This is particularly blatant in AV ads.

The other thing, mainly regarding software ads, is they don't seek to inform you so much as manipulate you whilst tracking your every move to guarantee that the ad was effective. This is particularly blatant with the Google and Facebook ad networks, but pretty much almost any 2-bit ad company you've heard of on the web at least tries to do something similar.

So in the end, advertising has at least two major problems with trying to either 1. manipulate you directly through your emotions or 2. manipulating your computer bandwidth and CPU time to violate your privacy and oftentimes, security.

Regarding #1, there are always going to be people that think they're smart enough, intelligent enough, or logical enough that they will never fall prey to this vector of advertising, and almost universally they are wrong. I don't doubt some few exceptions exist, I just don't think I've ever actually met someone who is an exception, nor am I under any illusions that I am. Your best defense is to cut ads out of your life to greatest extent possible. You'll probably never cut bus ads out of your life, if you at all enjoy city living, but you don't have to let advertisers into your home either.

How do you find out about things after that point? If you are at all social, read any kinds of news sites, invest any money into markets, have any kind of skin in some kind of game, or engage in any kind of recreational activities, you'll have other channels of information. Generally the signal will be of a much higher quality than if you were personally bombarded with advertisements intentionally seeking to cut out a large slice of your overall attention bandwidth every single day.

Even before ad-blockers, I have never intentionally clicked on an internet ad, whether in search results or on a website. These days, I block ads with extreme prejudice so I never even see most ads.

But I don't hate the concept of advertising. I don't deny being influenced by ads, or even sometimes finding them informative. I just reject being tracked and targeted.

I have adblock on my primary chrome profile, but occasionally browse using a profile where it is disabled because [reasons]. My experience has been generally pleasant if you discount the low-quality ads that would be blocked under this new scheme.

Instead, I get ads for interesting new components on DigiKey or Mouser, or the similar, and I find myself clicking on ads several times a week because I'm genuinely interested in what I see -- it's like a news feed for unusual devices.

Imagine if your Twitter feed was served several tweets at a time embedded in other sites you regularly visit. You could argue it's a distraction, but but it's far from unpleasant. "Personalized ads" work a lot the same way for me.

Just curious--when you say "AV ads," do you mean antivirus ads or audio/visual ads?

Apologies, I was using the acronym for Audio/Video and assumed it would be understood from context, but I could have been more clear.

Advertising is very seldom information based.

Advertising is primarily about making you buy a product from a particular company, whether it's a good product or not, whether it's right for you or not.

If it were about letting people know your products then 'Nide' would have "if you want these for cross-training the best show are 'Reebob' Cross2" on the advert for their training shoes.

Advertising is almost orthogonal to informative disclosure.

There are also what I call reminder ads. They don't tell you anything new or convince anyone to change their mind about whether they like a product, but they remind people of products they already like. (Movie theater ads about buying food and drinks, for example. Or milk ads.)

Advertisers want to make sure their customers don't forget to buy their stuff. This is much easier than actually convincing non-customers to do something new.

And is equally disgusting. I am a grown-ass adult. I can make choices in my life about habits, desires, and expenditures without any of your bullshit "reminders". I am not a toddler who needs to be set on a schedule for "feeding time".

Don't let advertising companies fool you. Your entire purpose to them is to be just as valuable as the average slaughterhouse cow

>Advertising is primarily about making you buy a product from a particular company, whether it's a good product or not, whether it's right for you or not.

That a pretty simplistic view. I never said ads are 100% true and want the best for you. Ads are informational as they inform you of the existence of a product and their basic characteristics. Small, well-targeted ads can be the only way someone that's just starting could have to let people know about the existence of their product. They don't hold a gun at you to force you to buy a product, they don't remove competition between companies, they don't prevent third-party review sites from existing. Buying or not buying them is up to each individual.

What percentage of ads do you learn from compared to the number of ads that make you pissed off at both the company and the content that allowed the ads? Come on, now, be honest.

For me, that first number is very, very low. I consume just like a lot of other folks, but its mostly art stuff. I have money in my account mostly because I don't have much I actually want that doesn't take some saving for. Mostly, I think these people just want my information or want me to pass on their advertisements. Clothing wants me to advertise for them with products splattered with their logo. They can go diddle themselves.

Want me to watch ads? Pay me. Have actual ad standards. Stop trying to trick me with "information". Stop trying to trick me with popups. And so on. Until then, back to the diddling.

Ads are almost never how informed purchasers make decisions. In the age of the Internet, review systems (whether collaborative or curated) are infinitely better sources of product information than ads. They are also vulnerable to manipulation from would-be advertisers, but less so (and any influence can be mitigated by trusted reviewers).

Ads do tell you something about a company though. Like, do they waste a lot of money on marketing? Have a good sense of humour? Target my in-group as a customer? Pay attention to detail?

If I don't want to see ads, I expect not to see them.

There's no "better approach".

As long as there is even one single instance of bad advertising on the web I have zero qualms about running an ad blocker and noscript.

Still buying stuff and I've been using ublock origin for years.

Google's incentives here are still antithetical to my own, so I'm going to stick with uBlock. For example, on Google search, ads masquerade as legitimate search results. These used to be highlighted in light yellow, clearly marking them as different from organic search results. Now, they only have the word "Ad" in light grey text. This notice is on the right, intentionally where it will be overlooked when reading through the titles of each result.

I can't imagine that Google would start blocking their own ad network, let alone their own ads. Therefore, I'm sticking with an ad blocker that I control.

> These used to be highlighted in light yellow, clearly marking them as different from organic search results.

The specific shade of yellow was indiscernible from background white on a cheap laptop at almost any angle. I wish I'd taken a photo when I noticed. I knew people who had never even noticed the yellow, at all, let alone understood it was ads.

I know, Never Attribute To Malice and all that, but hot damn, that must have been a massive multi million dollar move of "ignorance".

Google is the company that user-tested 41 shades of blue¹.

Malice or not, that yellow was surely intentional, and working as intended.

[1] http://stopdesign.com/archive/2009/03/20/goodbye-google.html

> I know, Never Attribute To Malice and all that, but hot damn, that must have been a massive multi million dollar move of "ignorance".

I think that this saying gets misapplied quite frequently. If you are talking to someone one on one, then you should assume that they are simply mistaken. Otherwise, you don't stand a chance of convincing them to see things another way. On the other hand, in trying to predict somebody else's actions, assuming malice can give the most accurate prediction.

On the part of Google, I don't know whether the nigh-unidentifiable ads are the result of some cackling executive trying to trick people to click on ads, or whether it is the result of overzealous A/B testing that stumbled upon a dark pattern. In the end, it doesn't matter, and either one is a good approximation of what will happen in the future.

I am more than happy to attribute it to malice because that is exactly what Google did with their competitors when they were just starting out.

Remember when Google claimed that paid inclusion was one of the worst sins a search engine could commit? One so bad that it made it claim other search engines were evil?

I'm always amused by Google's ethical evolution (actually scratch that I unwittingly stole it from Brent Butt, still funny):

Google motto 2004: Don't be evil

Google motto 2010: Evil is tricky to define

Google motto 2013: We make military robots

I'd love to see the original claim. Got an archive link?



References directly the founders letter, I do not have a link to that but I am not making this up.

Thanks. I don't think for a secnd you're making it up! It's just the halflife of information is almost as short as principled decisions...

This gives a fair coverage of the history, and hypocrisy:


Now we have google shopping search entirely pay to play.

I've attempted to use that a few times, I won't even waste my time on that garbage search anymore

> I'm going to stick with uBlock

Yeah, me too, but I don't think Google hopes to convince adblock users to revert to an adblock-free experience.

They're probably hoping (as is indeed stated in the article) that by removing the biggest pain points they will stop new users from seeking adblocking solutions.

We'll see what happens, but it doesn't seem an unreasonable thing to hope for.

> I'm going to stick with uBlock.

Same, and that is on Firefox too (both mobile and pc).

I don't understand companies, when I run some ad-block I clearly state that I _do not want to see ads_. Period.

It doesn't matter the format or how it looks, I just don't want too see ads and I get pissed if I do so it's actually bad for the company advertising.

I went online today to make a payment on my Lowes card.

I do a search for "Pay Lowes Credit Card"

The first couple of results are legit but everything afte ris some BS Scam.

To have an ad network control so much of web traffic and then decide which ads to block is just absurd.

If the chrome team and google’s ad teams were not controlled by the same unit that primarily makes money from ads it would have been ok, but given that they do, what incentive will they have to block their own ads and how much more powerful is it making their own network?

Sadly, chrome is still the easiest browser to use, especially as a developer

In your opinion, would spinning off Chrome into its own company under Alphabet be a possible solution?

No, because Alphabet is still Google. A layer of shell companies doesn't change anything. Chrome (and Android, probably) should be forcibly split off from anything to do with Google/Alphabet, as fully independent companies. Any collusion between them and Google should be illegal.

^- This is breaking up an illegal monopoly. Shuffling around which division owned by Larry Page and Sergey Brin it is is not.

Not OP, but that seems strange to me. Chrome is a product, not really a business. I can't see any way for them to make money, besides maybe enterprise deployments.

If Firefox makes $500M per year from search referrals, Chrome could make over $1B. Chrome would be very profitable as an independent company.

>To have an ad network control so much of web traffic and then decide which ads to block is just absurd.

Google doesn't determine what ads are blocked. That's done by the coalition that's composed of the following members and affiliate:


Full disclosure: I work in ad-tech.

1. Why do you guys downvote civil, informative posts that just happen to be philosophically different than yours? Seems anti-knowledge, and a net negative to HN.

2. What do you think pays for the internet? This is the first time I've ever engaged in a discussion, but I've been lurking for a year or two, and at least half of the links shared in the comments are ad-supported. Probably more. Sharing information is going to be more difficult when the money dries up and everything is behind a paywall.

3. People are annoyed that they see the same ad over and over again, but "tracking" is a cardinal sin. How is this supposed to work?

> How is this supposed to work?

By paying, not with your data but with your money.

Why does Linux work if nobody pays for it? People like to work on it and it's a community project useful to everyone. Lots of site are run this way, but too many see that they could make a few pennies out of it and turn that way. Then it turns to a dependency, people start blocking ads, and oh my god the whole internet cannot be paid for, you argue.

I'd much rather pay for things that are expensive (large sites like HN and Reddit, streaming licenses like Spotify, bandwidth and storage of Youtube, etc.) if then they didn't try to invade my privacy. In fact, I do pay for Reddit and Spotify. Youtube won't stop invading my privacy because they're Google's and HN does not have a donation option.

I host websites myself and it costs me a little, but even HN-frontpage events are not expensive enough to warrant subjecting my visitors to modern ads (which means not only annoying ads, but sometimes malware, and always invasive tracking).

> 1. Why do you guys downvote civil, informative posts that just happen to be philosophically different than yours?

I suspect you can't point out which post you're talking about or you'd reveal your real account, so I don't know what you're talking about specifically. I'm going to wager it's because they think those arguments didn't further the discussion and are really just plain wrong. (That's what I think they think, not saying that I think so, because I still have no idea which post it is about.)

The notion that advertisements pay for websites is entirely fabricated. Recent research shows massive amounts of fraud with the involvement of the ad industry which eats through the money flowing through the ecosystem. See https://www.buzzfeed.com/craigsilverman/ad-industry-insiders... and https://blog.confiant.com/uncovering-2017s-largest-malvertis....

I don't see how the two links you posted supports the assertion that the "notion that advertisements pay for websites is entirely fabricated."

First link is about fraud against advertisers, selling them fake ad impressions. Second link is about a sophisticated scheme to deliver malware to the end users using the ad ecosystem.

How does that dispute the fact that people who have websites can profit from putting ads on them?

If you want to go read the source yourself, I believe this is the implementation:


And the code reviews cover the feature are tagged with DNR: https://chromium-review.googlesource.com/?polygerrit=0#/q/Dn...

Edit: this may just be the net blocking code.

Now I'm half tempted to serve up ads from a path in the form '/a{n}b/\d+' with sufficiently large n to bring the O(mn) std::string::find subpattern matcher to a crawl when it encounters my harmless 'src="/a{m}"' iframes. Preferably n > 32K/2 to blow through L1 cache.

Which code are you looking at? I see it uses https://cs.chromium.org/chromium/src/components/url_pattern_....

Also, from what I gather from their docs, this is only for the ad-block-filter formatted lists. For their own super-secret-better-ads list, they use safe browsing lists which use a hash-some-then-phone-home approach IIRC [0]. I mean, even Mozilla that uses the safe browsing lists says at [1] that the internal documentation [2] is only available under NDA.

0 - https://developers.google.com/safe-browsing/v4/local-databas...

1 - https://wiki.mozilla.org/Security/Safe_Browsing

2 - https://mana.mozilla.org/wiki/display/FIREFOX/Safe+Browsing

Ah, I didn't dig, but I'd contend that URL length limits would apply and the worst you could do is slow down a client's browser in the same way you could just by multiplying the number of attempted requests to a blockable URL.

Looks basically like an ad block filter rule list parser (there are others in C++ including one I wrote [0] and one Brave people wrote [1]).

Of course, looking at the code, I am not seeing where cosmetic filters are supported. Also, you should include the code from https://cs.chromium.org/chromium/src/extensions/common/api/d... in this I think. Also, there's the safe browsing code at https://cs.chromium.org/chromium/src/components/safe_browsin... of which the author references db/util.h.

0 - https://github.com/cretz/doogie/blob/master/src/blocker_rule... 1 - https://github.com/brave/ad-block

Big Brother Google has a new definition of "ad blocker" with the novel feature of not blocking ads.


Seems like they are using their dominance in browser market in order to kill the competition in ads market.

that seems the case.

Slightly tangential, but:

> ... Google Safe Browsing service. Chrome checks every website you visit against a list of malicious websites that it periodically downloads from Safe Browsing.

So I have always disabled Safe Browsing because I assumed it was sending all my browsing activity to Google in real time to be checked. But this sounds like it's checking locally from a downloaded list. Anyone know if that's correct?

Safe Browsing is implemented in a fairly privacy-preserving way. The block list is downloaded periodically and sites are checked against this list locally. The only time most browsers implementing Safe Browsing will share potentially privacy-sensitive data is when you download executable files and when you actually encounter a site included in the block list (in order to double-check whether the site has since been removed).

Documentation for the Safe Browsing implementation in Firefox can be found here[1].

[1]: https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/how-does-phishing-and-m...

It's half and half from what I'm reading. It checks a local list for the sha-256 hash or partial hash. Then, if found, it phones home with the partial hash it found.

If you don't want to read [0], I think the Golang parser/lookup at [1] is a reasonable interpretation of what they're doing, but not sure. You can see there that the hashes generated are of different-host-combinations + different-URL-path-combinations. They do the partial hash check in a DB (local, downloaded periodically). If there's a partial hash in the DB, they phone home w/ that partial hash for the full hashes and check if it matches.

So Google gets the partial hash of a URL it had told you could be bad. They return the full hashes for that partial hash. We can hope (and see) that the partial hashes do not match a broad set (and they are host possibility + URL path combo possibility). Surely Google has something that maps the hashes to actual URL patterns, but like the other commenter said, the partial hash you send is only sent when it matches a local DB already.

0 - https://cs.chromium.org/chromium/src/components/safe_browsin...

1 - https://github.com/google/safebrowsing/

> Surely Google has something that maps the hashes to actual URL patterns, but like the other commenter said, the partial hash you send is only sent when it matches a local DB already.

It sends the first 4 bytes of a 32 byte SHA-256 hash of the URL. There isn't a reasonable map back for that.

I think Google is setting itself up for antitrust action. Isn’t this essentially what Microsoft did on the desktop by blocking competitors and priorritizing their own products?

Google may have pushed for this, but the standards were agreed upon by the ad industry:


The standards should be set by independent consumer watchdogs or the competent (one would hope) authorities, depending on the industry to self regulate has not worked in over 25 years, I see no reason why it would magically start to work now.

The ad industry had no means or incentive to self regulate. That has changed.

The incentive is ad blockers. The means is "Coalition for Better Ads."

Can't trust them to fight against tracking. Can't trust them to eliminate malvertising. Can't trust them to unblock your website in a timely manner or give good feedback about what is wrong with it. Can expect them to keep obnoxious use of advertising down to stop the whole industry from collapsing.

This is still not going to help with websites that force you to disable adblockers to access their content. It's especially annoying when after disabling the site looks like a cluster of ads with information hidden in between. It's an abusive relationship.

That is fine... personally those sites go on my mental block list to avoid in the future.

I hope Mozilla will do the same, only with a proper ad blocker. It's the only thing that makes sense given the two organizations' goals and purposes. Either that or they're loving their sponsorship money too much and there's no difference in goal or purpose between the two organizations. Can't wait to see if they stand up for users or lie down for money.

If webpage owners don't make money off of a browser, they'll stop testing/building their webpage against that browser or even block access from it, leading to broken webpages in that broken, which is not at all in the interest of users.

Plenty of browsers are not supported/tested on, yet they work just fine because they implement web standards.

Yeah, they work fine 90% of the time. But no web browser implements all webstandards and even less so implements them without bugs.

Google is also adding more and more proprietary APIs to their browser, which Mozilla will not be able to implement (Chromecast, Google Earth, Hangouts) or is adding pseudo-webstandards, which have been publicly specified, but they did not push it through the standardization process to reach an agreement with other browser vendors (e.g. WebSQL, File Storage API).

You're also saying "plenty of browsers". There's hardly any browsers that don't use Trident/EdgeHTML, Gecko or KHTML/WebKit/Blink. If they use one of those, then there's the major browsers IE/Edge, Firefox or Safari/Chrome that webpage owners will test/build against and as a result also cause it to work on that fork, meaning that yeah, those forks can easily implement an ad blocker without much to fear.

But that's not the case, if you are such a major browser yourself. Then webpage owners will notice and will not have any reason to optimize against your browser engine anyways.

> Google’s implementation is a bit different from how most extension as blocking is enforced at an earlier stage in the rendering processes than extensions have access to.

Nice to hear adblocking performance is set to have a huge boost as soon as extension authors figure out how to hijack the filter to return a BETTER_ADS violation for all sites.

I’m all for ad-blocking and the existence of ad blockers.

But I really don’t like the idea of corporations making decisions about what ads we get to see. It’s a slippery slope to go down. The existence of an entity which may even be “blamed” by content creators for taking their money(not exactly, but to some extent) for not meeting a standard they virtually have very little control over is almost un-democratic. And I won’t be surprised if there are some “oops, these guys meet all criterias but are still getting blocked” unintentionally(or even intentionally) by Google.

I don’t use Chrome very often, but I’d recommend everyone to disable this feature when it ships(and use ublock/other open source blockers if one has to).

The owners of DoubleClick are going to protect you from obnoxious ads! That’s So Googly!

"Focus on the customer and all else will follow"


It's never good to have someone as both a player and a referee in the same game.

I use an Ad blocker and I kinda regret it sometimes. Most of the time the blocker keeps me from seeing annoying, repetitive ads for things I have zero interest in learning about (trucks, loans, cash back, etc.)

However, I have realized that by blocking all Ads I am missing out on some cultural things, events that I want to know about. Movie information (Avengers, Hellboy, etc.) is one thing that I don't get informed of anymore. I didn't even see the latest Spiderman Homecoming movie in theaters because I had no idea it was even out until it was too late. I'm sure there are other things that I'm missing out on, but it's hard to know what you don't know.

Anyway, I think Ads are not evil or bad but they do need to be targeted better. If the Ad companies can figure out how to tell me about things I care about, or will possibly care about in the near future, then I'm OK with being exposed to them. If anyone should be able to do this it would be Google (they know everything about me). So I turned of uBlock Origin and started using Chrome's built-in blocker. So far it's been terrible; I'm seeing all kinds of Ads for things I just don't care about. I think I'm going back to my blocker. :/

I know what you're talking about and feel the same.

If you block marketing you are blocking a part of society. It reminds me of a Christian friend who never watches television.

Can you easily modify Chrome to use a more restrictive list that blocks all known ads?

Is there any reason you would ever want to see anything from DoubleClick?

Do these standards and this Chrome ad-blocker also solve the issue of advertisers putting crypto-mining scripts into their ads?

Or the minute+ unskippable ads on youtube?

I'm so glad Google is starting to put the customer first again. I hope the media gives credit where it's due, instead of this non-stop negative sensationalistic media we've been getting.

I for one, hope there's some kind of blocking for embedded videos. I haven't had luck with the existing solutions out there.

As someone here said, don't trust a burglar to install a security system.

Google is doing this to make sure their ads will be displayed. If chrome has built in ad blocking many people won't feel the need to install ad blockers that block all ads.

Another point mentioned is that this could be used in the future to hamper business of their competitors. It is very unlikely that this is why it was created, but don't forget that Google is a publicly traded company, if they will be pressed against a wall they will use anything available, and this could cause a serious damage against their competitors.

Google. Advertising company. If I ever have to watch advertising on the internet, I'm turning it off.

I long for the day Google asks you to disable your adblocker (uBlock, ABP, etc.) to be able to search.

> I long for the day Google asks you to disable your adblocker (uBlock, ABP, etc.) to be able to search.

That will be the day when fewer people search using Google, and someone will come up with noadoogle.

Try worse, removing ad-blockers from google store :)

You are part of the problem. People should not have to give up their privacy and expose their devices to the evil of the advert companies just to get online. Ads are almost the number one vector for malware. Ad servers are rarely, if ever, equipped with decent security and are frequently compromised.

Ads are a poor method for making money and the system is horribly gamed at every opportunity. Anything worth having is worth paying for. Google and their ilk have ruined the Internet and the general online landscape by dint of offering "free" services that are not really free; people pay for them dearly with lack of privacy and security and the return of a "free" service is not worth what is given.

I have happily paid for Fastmail since 2002. They are security conscience, responsive, and give a damn about their customers. I will use no one else. They are very transparent with their issues and enjoy providing their use base with information regarding their running of the company. Good luck with Google or Microsoft giving even paying customers this level of service and transparency.

Google have become too powerful. Way too powerful. They have their awful ads, beacons, and trackers on most websites and people just blissfully go along with it. I use zero Google services and block all of their tracking with a Pi-hole and other software tools. Ditto allowing no Android devices on my network. Getting into bed with Google in any way, shape, or form is literally giving away your privacy for a few trinkets that are worth nothing. If it's worth having, it's worth paying for. It's all an electronic leash...

> You are part of the problem

On HN, please make your points without stooping to personal swipes.


This feels like it's "DoubleClick For Publishers or Bust."

Admittedly, I've only been on the DevOps side of content marketing -- and even at that, only on the cloud infrastructure side of it -- but, I think that just about everyone knew that while writing your own content and then selling your own ad inventory was ideal, if you couldn't sell your own ad inventory, DFP was the second best play for the income.

To me, this screams, "Even if you have other ads, if they're not DFP-compliant, we won't show them if they are from our browser."

I may be completely wrong...but, who knows.

    if you couldn't sell your own ad inventory,
    DFP was the second best play for the income
If you don't sell your ad inventory, then how is DFP different from Adsense?

When I interviewed at Facebook almost every person I talked to said "if Google blocks ads by default Facebook will sue them" so I expect to see a lawsuit eventually

Out of interest how long ago was this? Asking because: "Mobile advertising revenue is reported and according to Facebook, it represented approximately 88 percent of advertising revenue for Q3 2017 up from 84 percent in Q3 2016." https://zephoria.com/top-15-valuable-facebook-statistics/

Facebook seem to have done an incredibly good job of reducing their exposure to the browser. That comes at the cost of exposure to Android, but it feels like Google are going to find blocking Facebook ads in the Facebook app way harder than in their website.

That's all a little bit irrelevant though because Facebook are members of the 'coalition for better ads' anyway.

December 2017

I would like to see that lawsuit. Imagine Facebook, a board member of the Coalition for Better Ads, suing Google for blocking Facebook ads that do not conform to the standards that Facebook, a board member, helped establish.

It'll be interesting to see how sites respond to this. Will they eliminate intrusive ads[1] from their sites entirely? Or start trying to force users to disable their ad blockers before using the site?

I have a feeling this is going to lead to an increase in both of those behaviors.

[1]: https://www.betterads.org/standards/

There are no annoying ads. All ads are annoying.

I don't think that browser should be in the business of blocking Ads. That's the job of 3rd party tools and extensions. A browsers job is to display a webpage as is not to alter it. At most it should scream if a man in the middle altered my page anything more is crossing the line.

Should a browser also not be in the business of alerting a user that they're about to visit a site serving malware and using zero day exploits or is that also the job for 3rd party tools and extensions?

Alerting is fine. Altering the page is not.

Browsers alter the page when they block popups.

When Microsoft enabled DoNotTrack by default in IE, there was a huge outrage along the lines "how do they dare assume by default that I don't want to be tracked on the net?"

Where is the outrage now "how do they dare assume that I don't want to see annoying ads by default?"

Here's how my ad blocker works:

- Install uMatrix (firefox/chrome add-on)

- Manually whitelist javascript

Get uMatrix folks.

Don't get how it's different from ublock or what's the benefits of umatrix

It blocks all third party scripts by default, allows first party scripts by default, and offers a very intuitive and clean interface for selectively allowing frames, xhr requests, scripts, etc. It has a better UX than uBlock in my experience.

Does ublock allow to block all javascript and cookies by default, and manually whitelist javascript or cookies domain by domain?

In "advanced user" mode it can do this. You can even say things like "yes allow from foo.com but only when I'm visiting bar.com"

I did this for a while but it all got to be too much trouble honestly. Now I just run uBlock in default configuration and also have an /etc/hosts file, and browser set to clear all history and cookies when closed.

"However, users can't add their own websites to the blocklist."

It doesn't prevent you from installing an Ad Blocker extension to block sites yourself, as you do today.

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